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Innovate Canmore to give back funds for economic impact study

"We had to move away from funding from governments," said Innovate Canmore's Brian McClure said. "Moving forward, we know we are heading in the right direction." 
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Innovate Canmore CEO Brian McClure. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – Innovate Canmore plans to give back $25,000 to the Town of Canmore for an economic impact analysis it was paid to complete, but didn't.

The analysis was to focus on the potential viability of a general development concept for a hub or campus that would incubate or accelerate local tech-sector startups and the possibility of using Town-owned land. 

However, the Innovate Canmore did not complete the economic impact statement work in conjunction with its efforts to develop the concept and recently decided to pursue private sector land partners instead of joining forces with the municipality on the project. 

"In September 2017, Innovate Canmore was before you through the Chamber [of Commerce] to request a $25,000 grant from the economic development reserve to undertake a study and understand the economic viability of this proposed development and value to the community in terms of the economic impact, especially if Town-owed land [is developed]," said general manager of municipal services Sally Caudill.

Caudill was in front of council in December to report back to elected officials that the $25,000 will be returned to the municipality from Innovate Canmore as a result of the work not being completed. 

"It would be a good practice to be clear that we have the money back and put it in the economic development reserve," she said. 

In March 2019, Brian McClure with Innovate Canmore provided an update to council and requested an extension to deadline for the study to be submitted to council, which was approved through a motion.

Another extension was granted by council in August and a presentation on the study's conclusions was set for October, but never occurred. At the time the study was expanded to include the University of Saskatchewan as a partner for the campus project with the intent to locate its Cold Water Laboratory there. 

McClure said Innovate Canmore is moving forward with the UofS, local developer Neil Tanner and Three Sisters Mountain Village on the campus concept using private lands. 

"We just spend two years building a business model and it looks like we can have a meaningful presence in the tech sector," he said, adding that the creation of a campus to incubate tech startups is phase two for Innovate Canmore. 

Phase one was to establish an office in the Shops of Canmore and explore the feasibility of creating a permanent campus or hub as an economic development project for the tech sector. The organization already has six tech-sector startups, with a goal of having up to 25 once phase two is complete and Innovate Canmore has a 25,000-40,000 square foot campus built. 

"We need to have an innovation campus here in Canmore and now we are moving in the direction of making that happen with Three Sisters," McClure said. 

When Innovate Canmore began, McClure added, it was set up as a non-profit entity in order to access potential federal and provincial grant funding. However, those funding sources never materialized. 

That means Innovate Canmore is changing its corporate structure to have a non-profit entity operate its educational and mentoring programs and separate private investment program in parallel to develop tech-sector startups and access venture capital. 

"We had to move away from funding from governments," McClure said. "Moving forward, we know we are heading in the right direction." 


EDITORS NOTE: In a previous version of this story, it was indicated the Town had received the money, however, the Town of Canmore has not received the transfer of funds to date. Due to the restructuring of Innovate Canmore, the company is anticipating to have the transfer of funds completed by Feb. 20.